Rockefeller Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Rockefeller Foundation is tackling climate change from multiple angles, including backing high-profile policy work, helping to scale up clean energy infrastructure in rural communities, and adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change. The foundation tends to support big-name NGOs with major grants, but many smaller groups also get in the door.

IP TAKE: Rockefeller's climate work has a lot of moving parts and very specific criteria, so do your homework to figure out the right entry point.

PROFILE: Founded in 1913 by legendary industrialist John D. Rockefeller and his son, the Rockefeller Foundation has a long legacy as one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the country. It is no longer the leader of the pack, but with a $3.5 billion endowment, Rockefeller is still a heavyweight that gives a great deal to climate change-related issues across multiple initiatives and four focus areas.

That said, Rockefeller does vary its targeted giving and has specific program criteria that it holds to strictly, so your project needs to be a really good fit with both the initiatives and the focus areas. Rockefeller's grants often address more than one of each, with the idea that they all sort of fit together. It's a little intense.

The foundation lists Climate Change as one of its major topics of interest and has several initiatives related to it. These initiatives focus variously on freshwater, marine conservation, developing sustainable and resilient cities, and promoting food security in both agriculture and fisheries, among others.

Rockefeller's climate change grants tend to amount to $10 million to $30 million annually, on average. The foundation is inclined to support large national and international climate change organizations, such as the International Institute for the Environment, the Center for International Forestry Research, and the Resources Legacy Fund. Rockefeller likes to support organizations with names as big as its own. Grants generally fall between $50,000 and $1 million, with a few exceeding $1 million.

As noted, Rockefeller's climate change and environmental grantmaking is a bit intense. The programs are involved and, in some cases, very specific. Overall, Rockefeller generally likes the following eco-friendly projects and activities:

  • Advocating for national and international policies to help mitigate the environmental impact of climate change, such as widespread droughts and floods
  • Growing the "green" economy in an effort to reduce overall energy consumption and increase the use of green energy
  • Scaling up green energy infrastructure, especially in rural and low-income communities across the globe
  • Promoting and advocating for sustainable transportation through clean burning public transportation vehicles and through sustainable infrastructures in the county's major metropolitan areas

Grantseekers are welcome to begin an unsolicited funding inquiry through Rockefeller's online system. They should be warned, however, that the likelihood of getting a project funded is pretty slim because Rockefeller likes to seek out the organizations that are candidates for receiving a grant. In addition, Rockefeller likes to fund bigger organizations that have the ability to exact large and widespread change.

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